Movie Review: ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Eric Bana
Plot: Arthur Pendragon grows up on the streets of Londinium, discovers his birthright and reluctantly claims Excalibur to battle his evil uncle Vortigern.
Review: Let’s get one thing straight…this ain’t your grandpa’s Arthurian legend of myth, wonder and nobility. Oh no, this is a new, hip King Arthur! He’s a street hustler, a kung-fu fighter and a full fledged pimp! And we mean that literally! We don’t have time for your classic storytelling, we have behemoth elephants shooting lasers from the All Seeing Eye pyramids on their backs! To hell with your investment in characters, logical story or enjoyable action sequences!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie cut through so much excitement and character development using montage before. It’s like they can’t wait for it to end. The entire development of the main character, how he learns his skills and forms his personality, is reduced to a montage. He must delve into the some dark realm and face terrifying monsters to claim his power…exciting stuff, but it’s jammed into a montage intercut with them explaining the scene. Because who wants to see a fight with giant bats. At least there were ROUSs.
The backstory of Excalibur: montage. Reaching his lowest point and finding his strength again: 30 second montage.
Now we’re going to get into the construction of a narrative here, specifically the importance of set-up and payoff. Let’s sum it up like this: you can’t deliver a punchline without first delivering a joke. You can’t have a resolution without first having a conflict. Easy, right? It applies to building a narrative. In order for a satisfactory payoff at the end of the movie or character arc, you need a convincing set up. This is where King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has it’s biggest failing.
Near the start of the movie, Arthur is motivated to fight his uncle when he threatens one of his prostitutes…a character who hasn’t delivered a single line in the movie. For a good emotional payoff to his, they’d need to set-up the character being threatened, which they haven’t done. The movie is nothing but spluttering moments like this. Evil Uncle is going to sacrifice his daughter to gain power – a daughter who had about 30 seconds of screen time. If the movie doesn’t care anything about this character, why should we? The biggest turning point of the story is when an assassination attempt on the king goes wrong and the city descends into riots. The assassination attempt fails because Littlefinger just has to shoot this bad knight guy with his tactical sniper bow. They’d have to be a pretty fucking good reason for him to do this, right? Plenty of good, juicy set-up to justify this important payoff, right? RIGHT?
“They have a history.”
That’s it. No explanation for this action that turns the entire story on its head, causing the death of hundreds and leads us to the final confrontation. A final confrontation that looks lifted from God of War as Arthur battles Skeletor wielding dual blade, Darth Maul style scythe.
So the story is a wreck, and certainly not something to build a six-movie franchise out of. Some of the action is fun when they’re not filming it with shaky Go-Pros. Whenever Arthur picks up Excalibur his eyes glow blue and all the elements start flying about the place and he tears through armies, and that looks cool. It’s surprising to learn that King Arthur is an Avatar though.
There’s more questions about this movie and the decisions made during production, like why Ursula the Sea Witch keeps turning up and why are the visuals so bloody dreary and why is there a ziggurat in the middle of the English countryside, but there’s one thing you really need to know.
During the pivotal moment when Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone the director decided that this was the perfect time to slip in a cameo from David Beckham. Yes, the most iconic moment from the story, the beginning of the heroes journey, means so little to the filmmakers that they included a gormless cameo appearance to raise a chuckle from the audience.
If they don’t care, why should we?
Rating: TWO out of TEN
Hey, Guy Ritchie…could you do another Man From UNCLE movie instead of five sequels to this? That’ll be cool.